Radio Miracles In Mexico
July 23, 2012

Photo by Devin Browne
Any type of water -- in this case, a fountain in a city plaza -- is a fixation in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mex.
HERMOSILLO, SONORA, Mex. -- I am spending the summer in Hermosillo, Sonora which is actually a lot like Phoenix -- it’s another hot and sprawling place, the capital of its state. It’s also almost exactly the same distance from the U.S.-Mexico border. This means, predictably, there is a fair amount of migration through the city -- Central Americans on their way to the U.S., recent deportees on their way back from the U.S., and farmworkers from Southern Mexico in Sonora to pick melons and harvest nuts.

Yet, in Hermosillo, migration/immigration rarely make the news. At the newsroom I spend the most time in (Radio SA), there is no border reporter and there is no immigration reporter and it’s almost never talked about. Instead, they talk a lot, a lot about what I only wish we talked about more in Arizona: Water.

Specifically, people call in, all day, every day, from almost every colonia -- rich and poor -- in the city to say they don’t have any. The host will say hello, who’s speaking? and the caller will also say hello and, in Spanish, “I’m Lupe and I don’t have any water again. I’m trying to wash my clothes and I can’t.”

The host will ask how long Lupe’s been without water, and Lupe will tell him it’s been four, maybe five hours. “And where do you live, señora?" the host then asks. "What is your address?”

And Lupe will say her address on the air! (We don’t even use last names for call-in shows in the states.) Also, Lupe will give the cross streets and any other relevant, logistical details -- which, apparently, the web of water repair here requires.

I guess the thing to do when you don’t have water in Hermosillo is to not call the water company. They allegedly won’t answer. Instead: Alert the media, call the radio station. Someone, somewhere is listening -- in fact, the mayor’s office contracts out with a private company who hires people to sit and monitor all the media outlets for calls like this.

What happens next is that the monitoring company calls the water company and then (sometimes) the water company sends someone out to your house to fix the problem. The next day, a man from the mayor’s office gets a few minutes of airtime to announce all the problems they solved. Sometimes, also, callers like Lupe call back to say thank you, for yes -- they now have water.

It’s like a miracle, I told one of the hosts who fields calls not only about water problems, but also potholes that need to be filled and buses that need to be punctual and street lights that need to be repaired, and he laughed and looked at me completely incredulously like -- where else would people call?

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